Sunday, November 29, 2015

Word for Word's Holiday High Jinks: ☼ ☼ ☼

"Dancing Dan's Christmas," the first of three Christmas-themed stories presented in Word for Word's 2015 "Holiday High Jinks," is so entertaining that the other two stories coming afterwards have trouble keeping up. Though Joseph Mitchell's "The Cave Dwellers" has some fine moments and terrific acting, the ending is inconclusive. E.B. White's "Christmas and Relative Pronouns," comparing the usage of the word "which" versus the word "that" -- let's just call it "droll." The W4W ensemble, as always, is excellent in all three pieces.

We want to talk about Dancing Dan. Dan, as played by Rotimi Agbabiaka, is a guy without a care in the world, except his life is in danger due to his attraction to the glamorous show-girl Muriel O'Neill, played by Lisa Hori-Garcia. Muriel's other suitor happens to be the dangerous mobster Heinie Schmitz, played by Paul Finocchiaro, who is about to take his revenge upon Dancing Dan as well as Good-Time Charlie Bernstein (Soren Oliver), in whose prohibition-era speakeasy most of the action takes place. Jackson Davis is wonderful as our unnamed Speakeasy Regular, who manages to narrate this heart-warming story while simultaneously getting hammered on Hot Tom and Jerry. Stephanie Hunt plays Gammer O'Neill, whose last moments on earth become filled with treasure.

The three stories are all depression-era vignettes written in the 1930s for The New Yorker. All three are fun, but don't get there late -- the first story, "Dancing Dan's Christmas" is just like Hot Tom and Jerry -- booze, egg whites and cream, kind of like a hot egg-nog -- it will knock you over.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Holiday Awards Division awards W4W's "Holiday High Jinks" Three Stars. Word for Word makes its living choosing dialogue-rich short stories and acting them out on stage, and these three continue the tradition. "Dancing Dan" and "The Cave Dwellers," in particular,  show us the patched and faded face of Christmas during the 1930s in hard-times America, viewed through the cutting lens of New York City. Clearly, we all need to read more Damon Runyon.

"Word for Word's "Holiday High Jinks"
Z Below
470 Florida Street, San Francisco
Through December 24

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